The great thing about running a small business is that you get to remain close to every part of it – from product development and manufacture all the way through to sales, distribution, and customer support.
However, this can be a bit of a double-edged sword. It means that at busy times you are probably spread a little thin and can’t give each area the attention it deserves. Often it is the marketing function that gets neglected.
Without a dedicated marketing department how do you get noticed, generate leads, and turn customers into loyal fans?
Here we describe some effective digital marketing strategies for small business that can really help.
- How to connect with your local market
- How to establish your brand
- How to sell more to mobile users
- Social media best practices
- How to promote your business with videos
- How to get more customer reviews
- How to make your budget go further
- How to start using omnichannel messaging
- How to use your data effectively
- How to scale your service with chatbots
1. How to connect with your local market
There has been a shift in the types of brands that consumers want to be associated with. Many more people are now looking to shop local and seek out domestic brands that can provide authentic shopping experiences, without the stigma and carbon footprint associated with buying generic products shipped from far away.
Studies in the United Kingdom have shown that 93% of consumers now actively seek out local food and drink brands, with 27% ‘always’ opting to buy local.
And it isn’t just food – whether you sell cupcakes or cladding, customers are prouder than ever to say that they bought local and are much more likely to recommend your business on social media and by word of mouth.
To make it easy for local customers to find you, make sure you do the following:
- Create or claim your Google Business Profile which will display your business’ contact details in search results and in Google Maps.
- Be sure to include location keywords in your website copy and content, for example ‘Boston’s Leading Vegan Deli’. Google will be far more likely to display your page in results.
2. How to establish your brand
Branding isn’t just for big players like Nike and Amazon – small businesses can benefit enormously from establishing a recognizable and consistent brand image in their own markets. It is so much more than an attractive logo though – put some effort into identifying the core values and goals of your company and the problems that you help to solve for your customers.
You can then sum these up in a few lines or a mission statement that can then guide your marketing content, visual media, and even customer interactions. Your brand should be unique, instantly recognizable, and invoke positive feelings in anyone interacting with it.
Finally, it’s time to either get creative or employ an agency to help you with brand typography, color palette and style guide. These can then be applied to physical signage, your website, stationary and even staff uniforms. It is no co-incidence that McDonalds staff wear the same gear in every restaurant you visit.
3. How to sell more to mobile users
Fact – people predominately use their mobiles to research products, find local businesses that sell them, and navigate to the address. This will only expand as conversational commerce becomes widely adopted. Your website must be optimized for mobile if you want to benefit.
A bit of extra time and expense when you first build your site is nothing compared to the hassle of migrating it to a mobile-friendly platform down the line.
4. What are social media best practices for small businesses
Small businesses cannot afford to ignore the free benefits that having a social media presence can bring.
Creating business profiles on sites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn enables customers to find you, and allows you to engage directly with them without the pressure of a direct sales situation. Social media is not invasive – you post updates for followers to see, and they can choose whether they interact with them or not. This puts people at ease and allows you to build relationships over time.
Nothing puts potential customers off faster than an abandoned social media page.
Here are some tips for getting started on social media:
- Research the social platforms that your target market uses the most and concentrate on these. Keep track of audience demographics as these are constantly changing. For example, Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is the 65+ age category.
- Share content that is informative, engaging and entertaining and that puts the focus on your customers. You can promote your product and services, but if you do it too much your audience will switch off. If you have a blog on your website, share new updates on social media to drive traffic to your page.
- Plan your social media updates with a content calendar. If you only have time and resources for four updates a month then make sure these are spread out evenly. Many businesses make the mistake of going crazy with lots of posts when they first create an account and then slack off. Nothing puts potential customers off faster than an abandoned social media page.
- Consider working with influencers to grow your social media presence. They sometimes get a bad rep due to their cringeworthy antics, but not all are the same. It should be relatively easy to find and partner with a respected influencer in your own market, or find someone who is just starting out and looking to work with small brands for a minimal fee.
- Get conversational and engage with your followers using the many options that social platforms provide. From simply tagging individuals in your posts, replying to comments, and generating debate with polls, there are plenty of options for leveraging the benefits of conversational marketing.
5. How to use video to promote your business
As a small business owner, you are probably more of an expert in your field than you realize. People will value your insight into the market you serve and the products you sell. Why not make videos to share this knowledge and expose your brand to a whole new audience?
Just look at some of the phenomenal viewing figures that one-person businesses have achieved with their YouTube videos:
If you feel that you have a face for radio and a voice for silent film (we are sure that isn’t true), then you can still make excellent videos with text instead of voiceover. These are also much easier to translate if you decide to explore overseas markets.
6. How to get more customer reviews
When we search online for a local business, the customer reviews are usually the first and sometimes the only thing we look at before deciding who to shop with. According to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This makes them the cheapest and most compelling source of promotion available to small businesses.
Here are some ways you can encourage customers to leave reviews for your business:
- Build review requests into your workflow: In the hustle and bustle of the working day, it can be easy to forget to ask for reviews, but if it is baked into your businesses processes then it becomes second nature. However, make sure that staff are trained to ask at the optimum point.
- Pick the right moment: If you sell skin care products there is no point asking customers to review them right after purchase as it will take time to start enjoying the benefits. Every product or service will have an optimum ‘window’ when customers are most likely to provide positive feedback. Again, these requests can be built into workflows, or you can seize the opportunity to ask for reviews when customers express satisfaction with your business.
- Provide multiple options: Not every customer is the same. Provide multiple options for leaving reviews to increase the chances of getting one. Google, Yelp, and Facebook are just a handful of platforms that provide review options. Some old-school customers may even write you a card or letter to show their appreciation – which would make a great social media post.
- Provide incentives: This is an excellent way of generating a high number of reviews, including from people less inclined to do so. You can’t reward people for leaving just positive reviews, but you can offer discounts, coupons, or even cash for taking the time to leave a review – positive or negative. Even if there are the occasional not-so-positive reviews, make sure that you respond to them personally. Don’t use generic templated replies that make it look like you didn’t even read the feedback. This might require a bit of time, but it offers huge benefits that warrant the overhead.
7. How to make your marketing budget go further
If you only have a handful of employees, the chances are that you don’t have a dedicated marketing person. Maybe your salesperson is also responsible for marketing but doesn’t have the time or desire to look after every little aspect of the marketing function.
The answer is to involve every employee in marketing your business. You may be surprised at the hidden skills and interests that your team have that could make a huge contribution to your marketing function. From the person who answers your phone to your friendly delivery driver – as long as they are familiar with your brand voice and guidelines, all can be a real asset.
Some of the tasks that could easily be shared amongst your team include:
- Looking after social media accounts
- Writing blogs and making product videos
- Posting on industry forums and pages
- Engaging with customers at events and trade shows
- Cross-selling where appropriate
8. How to use omnichannel business messaging
Compared to twenty years ago, there are so many more options available to small businesses for communicating with customers and prospects. Email and SMS are widely used but there is now RCS and messaging apps like WhatsApp Business, Messenger, Viber for Business and many more.
All will have their unique features and benefits, but the key point is giving your customers choice on which channels they can communicate with you on.
For example, a person may be happy to receive SMS from you for shipping and delivery notifications, but for promotional and marketing messages they may prefer email, and to chat with you they may only use WhatsApp. If you only gave this person one channel option, then there is the risk that they will unsubscribe, and you could lose them as a customer.
If you would like to experiment with different messaging options, we offer a free trial that allows you to send real messages to get a feel for how easy it is to go omnichannel with your business communication.
9. How to make the most of your data
If you run an eCommerce business or sell on your website in addition to a physical store then the data that is generated in the daily running of your business is like gold dust.
Good data practices not only ensure that you remain compliant, but enable you to engage customers with personalized offers, making every customer feel valued and appreciated. On the most basic level, if a customer buys a product from your website you can start promoting associated products to them and stop promoting the product that they already bought.
Now imagine the same person visits your premises and you are able to recognize them based on their account or loyalty card number. You have immediate access to their purchase history and preferences, they don’t have to provide their details again, and you can provide a consistent online and offline experience. By saving them time and providing a memorable experience they are far more likely to buy from you again.
The key to achieving this is to ensure that your data is not siloed – this means that your customer, transactional and sales data is all stored in a central location and all can be used to underpin your marketing activity.
Get this right from the start and you can enjoy the benefits of effective data analytics and customer segmentation as your business grows.
10. How to scale your service with chatbots
Automation isn’t just for big business. These days many small companies are using easy-to-build chatbots to automate many of the simple and repetitive tasks that take up so much time. Here are just a handful of examples:
- Customer service: Create a chatbot that can answer common everyday questions like “What are your opening hours?” or “Have you shipped my order yet?”
- Lead generation and sales support: People will often be browsing your website after hours when there is no-one available to answer questions. A chatbot can be there 24/7 to provide the information they need and stop them drifting off to a competitor’s site. The chatbot can show videos, send brochures, and even conclude the entire sales transaction with no human help. If a person’s input is required, then the chatbot can even schedule an appointment with a salesperson.
- Engagement: Display QR codes on your website, web ads or on outdoor media which, when scanned, initiate a conversation with your chatbot and provide information about your products and services in a friendly and engaging way. Some small businesses are having great success generating interest by running competitions, quizzes and hosting simple games over chat.
If you want to try building a chatbot yourself, our free trial enables you to build a fully functional chatbot for any channel including web, SMS and most messaging apps. Check out our blog which provides a step-by-step guide on how to build a WhatsApp chatbot using our simple no-code interface.
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